South Dakota’s solar industry is poised for significant growth as a result of two proposed utility-scale solar energy construction projects.
The first of their kind in South Dakota, the projects in Oglala Lakota and Pennington counties have the potential to increase South Dakota’s installed solar capacity from less than 1.8 megawatts to more than 200 megawatts in the next two years.
In February, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued its first ever permit for a large-scale solar energy construction project. The Lookout Solar Park, slated for completion in 2021, will be capable of generating 110 megawatts of energy and will be located on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Also in February, Geronimo Energy announced its intention to build the Wild Springs solar project, a 128-megawatt facility near New Underwood. Expected completion date is 2022.
Basin Electric has agreed to purchase power from this facility and sell to its electric cooperative members, including West River Electric Association, which serves the area where the facility will be built. This project must still go through the PUC approval process.
Solar energy production offers untapped potential for South Dakota, which ranks 50th in the nation and derives only 0.02 percent of its electricity from solar. However, The Solar Energy Industry Association ranks the state fifth in growth projection over the next five years.
As more solar projects are built, they bring new economic opportunities that will benefit our state. Demand for renewable energy continues to grow, and the cost of solar installation is at an all-time low, making solar energy a sound investment.